Prepare for new NFPA 86 codes in 2003.

If you are a regular reader of this column, you know that enforcing standards and codes is essential to plant and personnel safety at your manufacturing facility. The hard part is keeping up with the codes, which seem to change just when you get a handle on them!

Well, it's that time again. NFPA 86 codes for ovens and furnaces -- the standards that are most applicable for those who use heat during the manufacturing process -- are being reviewed and in the development process. (The last revision was in 1999.)

According to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), one reason its codes and standards are so widely adopted is because they are developed using an open, consensus-based process and therefore represent a balance of interests. NFPA says that all of its codes and standards are developed and periodically re-viewed by more than 5,000 volunteer committee members with a range of professional expertise. These volunteers serve on more than 200 technical committees and are overseen by the NFPA Board of Directors, which also appoints a 13-person Standards Council to administer the standards-making activities and regulations.

Because NFPA's standards-making process involves an open system, anyone may submit a proposal for a new fire safety project. If the council approves the need for a proposed fire safety project, the project is either assigned to an existing technical committee or a new committee is appointed. Committees are composed of members representing industry, enforcing agencies, insurance companies, fire services, educators, businesses and consumers. The committees are structured so a single interest is not represented by more than one-third of the committee.

NFPA says that because this process includes a range of technical expertise and fire safety interests, the resulting codes provide adequate protection without stifling design or development. They also consistently withstand judicial scrutiny. Another benefit of the way that NFPA codes are developed is they include little or no cost to taxpayers because the process depends largely on volunteers.

The procedures for adopting codes and standards vary from one jurisdiction to another. Usually, the easiest way is to adopt the document by reference, a method requiring that the text of the law or rule cite the standard by its title and edition, without actually printing the wording into law.

In the next few months, I will be speaking with several industry experts who will offer their opinions on what the new codes might mean for engineers using heat processing equipment. Beginning in January/February 2003, I will use this column to share with you their insights. If you are an NFPA member, you can view the proposals and comments at

Please take a moment to drop me a line with what you would like to see in the revised NFPA 86 Standard for Ovens and Furnaces, NFPA 86C Standard for Industrial Furnaces Using a Special Processing Atmosphere, and NFPA 86D Standard for Industrial Furnaces Using Vacuum as an Atmosphere. The proposal is to combine NFPA 86, 86C and 86D into one overall standard NFPA 86.